Someone asked me to setup a test of our district’s almost 2000 aging desktop computers using GNU/Linux based thin clients instead of replacing the older computers. We are attempting to keep technology working in very tight economic times in our district.
Here are the responses I shared with the person who asked me this question above…I felt my response didn’t get at what he really needed to know. What would you folks have said instead or added on or left out?
A thin client approach can be expensive to implement up front…instead of putting your money into client stations, you put your money into the servers that support the client stations.
If your superintendent wants to save money, he’d keep buying the hardware that he is now, but put Edubuntu or some form of GNU/Linux on them, eliminating the software costs (e.g. Windows OS, MS Office, etc.).
In the two districts that I’ve heard of this being done, both failed ultimately because if there was a server or network problem, the client machine was dead. In fact, in one school district, the CTO was pushed out because of the thin client implementation failure.
If you are willing to put the financial investment in up front, though, you have several options to explore:
1) Edubuntu Thin Client Cook book
This is a nice overview and will let you in on what you’re in for!
Also read the UbuntuLinux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) – https://help.ubuntu.com/community/UbuntuLTSP
Lots of stuff to read there.
2) Find a local vendor that can help you with this. While I have faith in your abilities, this is not something to just jump into…at least, not quickly. I would have them–as we did–set up a thin client computer lab in a library so that folks–students–can try it out. Offer a prize of some sort (e.g. iPod) and get them to give you some feedback on their experience. This is valuable Public Relations and research you can use later when justifying it.
3) Consider a Citrix-based solution. There are some “big” vendors out there that support this…I regret I don’t remember them off the top of my head. We have a big Citrix nut in Texas–Don Hindsley–and with your permission, I’ll send him an email.
Again, the least expensive solution (IMHO) is to keep buying the hardware you’ve always gotten, but eliminate the software costs by loading ubuntuLinux on the machines. The latest version 10.04 Lucid Lynx is fantastic and you can’t go wrong.
A colleague–Leslie Sessions–suggested this:
Jeremy Fluhmann suggestion: if we’re relating thin client deployment to #vdi, then I’ll have to go with @vbridges and probably DevonIT thin clients
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